Saturday, February 6, 2010

Almost Stranded

We got snow in Pennsylvania.

This may not be a surprise to those people who live along the East Coast, and those who actually live in my state are probably throwing rotten vegetables at the computer screen and booing at me for reminding them about it. But I have a short, interesting story to tell.

I nearly got stranded in downtown Pittsburgh.

The snow was falling heavy while I was at work. Those upper management and supervisors had already ducked out early to beat the bad weather predicted to come down. They even paid us the day before our scheduled payday because of the expected snowfall.

What they didn’t do was allow us to leave early from work.

Before I go on, let me explain the particularities of my job. I work 10 hour shifts. Those shifts change around depending on the day. Most of it is phone work. Most of it requires me to handle vital, personal credit and banking information from customers. This information, when mishandled, could lead me to have a pleasant talk with the FBI and a comfy cot in a federal prison for 8 years.

Yeah . . .

Anyway, I was working an afternoon/evening shift of 11:30am to 10:00pm. By the time I was released from the rat cubicle maze, a good 6 inches of snow must have already fallen. (In truth, I don’t know how much snow fell. I’m being too lazy to give specifics. Let’s just say it was a LOT of snow. You’ll get my drift [HAH, “drift,” I made a snow joke] later on in this story.) I had jokingly told my fellow coworkers that if I end up walking home because of the snow, I’m not walking back into the office in the morning for my early shift.

Well, upon getting outside, we discovered all public transportation buses had been shut down. Yes, shut down. This also included the T transit subway that would lead me across the bridge into downtown Pittsburgh where I would catch a bus to get home.

Yes . . . everything was shut down.

This meant I had to walk, across the bridge, and hopefully figure out a way to get home.

Wait! Let me backtrack. I should have said before that I DIDN’T know the public transportation was shut down. I found out this information later. After waiting a good fifteen minutes for the T to show up, I decided I should try to get downtown before the buses ended their route shifts for the night. So I walked across the bridge and entered downtown until reaching the bus stop. Between 20 and 40 people stood there, wondering what they should do and where the buses were.

We waited . . . and waited . . . and waited . . .

By 11:30 it was obvious the buses would not show up. How many people were stranded? I don’t know. Could have been anywhere over a hundred scattered throughout downtown. I know I was part of that number. People were trying to contact Yellow Cabs, being put on hold and getting busy signals. One senior with a walker was the worse case, sitting for so long with her joints stiffening as people called on their cell phones (including me) trying to get her help. Then a savior showed up.

Two men in an SUV entered the blustery streets offering people rides home, wherever they lived.

Of course it was for a price. These guys weren’t stupid, and I don’t expect anyone to risk their lives driving in such hazardous conditions to do this for free. I respect what they did. Besides, the cash paid for their gas and the danger of being put to gunpoint and robbed by dishonest people.

I paid my fare, extra, because I got bumped by two arrogant women who wouldn’t make room for anyone else to get inside. The driver told me he would come back, despite power outages and falling tree branches. He stuck to his word, which earned him a tip. I piled into the backseat with another woman and a guy strapped for cash. I gave the man what money I had left in my backpack so he could get home.

We made it safe. Before disembarking as we pulled in by the church on the opposite side of where the apartment building was, the driver asked for my name. I told him. He said I was a saint for what I did. I didn’t do much, in my honest opinion. I tried calling for help for a senior citizen but unfortunately didn’t get through to anyone, and I just gave extra cash for a stranger to pay his way home. Not much.

Yet the driver said I was a saint and said, “God bless you.” I stumbled into my apartment, frozen to the bone, at midnight. After taking a shower, I went to bed.

That morning, I called the office weather hotline at 7:42 to see if they closed operations. They hadn’t. My shift started at 8:00. There is officially 20 inches of snow on the ground. All public transportation services are still shut down.

I called the supervisor’s extension, who didn’t answer, and left a message that I wasn’t coming in today. As I told everyone the night before, if I have to walk home, I’m not walking back.

I’m sticking with my convictions.

A picture of the street outside my bedroom window.


  1. Thank goodness, that guy in the SUV came along...lots of snow around here too. I've stayed put but hadn't given much thought to those that have to go out or about public transfortation being shut down....thanks for the reminder that some people have to get out and they're risking there lives to be there for others.

  2. To the people you helped, you were truly a saint. What may seem little things to us may be life-savers for others. I'm glad you're staying safe at home!

  3. You have a good heart Michelle. . . although I think we already knew that. :o) Glad you made it home safely and didn't try to trudge back in to work the next day.

  4. Wow. What a night! I'm glad you made it home safe. You are a truly wonderful, unselfish person.

  5. Thank goodness that, even though it snows often here, we usually only get a little snow at a time.

  6. Oh man, sorry. Prolly our fault down here in Louisiana y'all are getting all this snow! You know...hell freezing over since the Saints are in the big game? hehe


  7. Can't say that I blame you for not going in. It sounds as though much of your city is shut down, so it certainly seems a reasonable excuse.

    And what you did WAS saintly, whether you want to buy into the thought or not. You're a nice woman, Michelle (but, I've told you that before.)

  8. Don't kid yourself. You are a saint. While it might be no big deal to you helping people out, to them it was the world.

    I was walking home one time with my two boys (who were quite small then) and it was freezing cold. We had just gotten off the light rail (train type thing for those who aren't familiar). A woman who had also gotten off behind me had her car, and she noticed us walking up the hill in the cold. Despite not knowing me from Adam, she pulled over and offered us a ride. I can't tell you how thankful I was. I was only going to have her take us closer to home, but she insisted on taking us the whole way. I had no money to give her, so I just told her how incredibly thankful I was.

    I'm glad you made it home in one piece. And thank you for being such a nice person. We need more "saints" like you.

  9. Wow Michelle. What a story. I'm so glad you were able to get home. And I don't blame you for not going in the next day.

    It snowed out here in California for two days last year and my truck got stuck. A guy in a SUV towed my car into a super market parking lot and gave me a ride home. HE was the saint that day.

    Your story reminds me of why I don't really ever want to move to a state where it snows for than once every 10 years.

  10. Wow, that's some picture of your street. I really enjoyed the account of your trip home.

  11. glad to hear you got home! hope everyone did. what a miserable scene! i don't mind snow, i just don't like dealing with it!


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